Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Guest Star: Joanne Rendell
Our Guest Star author this week is Joanne Rendell, author of the new novel, Crossing Washington Square, which I had the pleasure to read an advanced copy of earlier this year. And so I can say with authority that it's a fabulous read!
And if you head over to Free Book Friday before Thursday night, you can enter to win a free autographed copy!
Here's what the book is about:
A story of two strong-willed and passionate women who are compelled to unite their senses and sensibilities, from the author of The Professors' Wives' Club.
Professor Diana Monroe is a highly respected scholar of Sylvia Plath. Serious and aloof, she steadfastly keeps her mind on track. Professor Rachel Grey is young and impulsive, with a penchant for teaching relevant contemporary women's stories like Bridget Jones' Diary and The Devil Wears Prada, and for wearing her heart on her sleeve.
The two conflicting personalities meet head-to-heart when Carson McEvoy, a handsome and brilliant professor visiting from Harvard, sets his eyes on both women and creates even more tension between them. Now Diana and Rachel are slated to accompany an undergraduate trip to London, where an almost life-threatening experience with a student celebrity will force them to change their minds and heal their hearts...together.
And here's my interview with the author!
1. Any fan/fan mail stories you care to share?
My first novel was The Professors' Wives' Club. A couple of months after its release, a woman contacted me and said she'd read and enjoyed the book. She told me she was a professor's wife and after a few emails, she revealed that she was the wife of a very distinguished professor of cultural studies whose work I'd read, who I'd seen giving keynotes talks at conferences, and whose work greatly influenced the writing of Crossing Washington Square. Not really a "rock star" moment, but still exciting to know the wives of influential professors (professors I really dig!) read my book.
2. Where do you write?
I write at my desk at the front of our apartment. We live on a very busy street in Manhattan so my writing is "lulled" by taxis honking, firetrucks hooting, and jackhammers pounding. With all this practice, I could probably keep writing through a asteroid shower!
3. What was your inspiration behind your latest novel?
The idea for Crossing Washington Square evolved over a few years. As someone who has lived the academic life (I have a PhD in literature and now I'm married to a professor at NYU), I've always loved books about the university - novels like Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys, Richard Russo's The Straight Man, Zadie Smith's On Beauty, and Francine Prose's Blue Angel. But what I noticed about such campus fiction was the lack of female professors in leading roles. Even the female authors like Francine Prose and Zadie Smith's novels focus on male professors. Furthermore, most of these male professors are disillusioned drunks who quite often sleep with their students! I wanted to write a novel with women professors taking the lead and I wanted these women to be strong and smart and interesting – instead of drunk, despondent, and preoccupied with questionable sexual liaisons!
4. What line or section of your novel are you most proud of?
Rachel Grey and Diana Monroe are both literature professors in the old boys club of Manhattan University. While this should create a kinship between them, they are very much at odds. Rachel is young, emotional, and impulsive. She wrote a book about women's book groups which got her a slot on Oprah and she uses "chick lit" in her classes. Diana is aloof, icy, and controlled. She's also a scholar of Sylvia Plath who thinks "beach" fiction is an easy ride for students. My favorite scene is where these two women face-off in a department meeting. Neither of the professors is a shrinking violet and thus sparks really fly! The scene was such fun to write.
5. If you were in charge of casting the movie adaptation of your book, who gets the call?
Crossing Washington Square loosely echoes Austen's Sense and Sensibilty - with one professor being led by her sense, the other by her sensibility. I love the Ang Lee adaptation of Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet playing the two very different Dashwood sisters. I'd love Emma and Kate to play my professors too!
Praise for Crossing Washington Square:
"Joanne Rendell has done it again! Crossing Washington Square is a book that will stay with you long after you turn that final page. Curl up on a park bench somewhere, watch the leaves fall, and spend some much beloved time with Rachel and Diana."
-Jessica Brody, bestselling author of The Fidelity Files and Love Under Cover
"For every reader who has ever wondered why nineteenth century novels about women are called ‘the canon’, but contemporary novels about women are called 'chick-lit' comes a charming, witty and cerebral novel about Rachel Grey, an Austen-worth heroine fighting for love and respect in the academic shark tank."
-Nicola Kraus, New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Nanny Diaries
Click here to order Crossing Washington Square on Amazon!
About the Author:
Joanne Rendell was born and raised in the UK. After completing her PhD in English Literature, she moved to the States to be with her husband, a professor at NYU. She now lives in faculty housing in New York City with her family. Visit Joanne's website at: JoanneRendell.com